Thursday, December 20, 2012

Man's Humanity to Man


The Christmas Truce of 1914 is a reminder of man's humanity in the midst of industrial scale inhumanity. But I wasn't aware of any similar story from the Second World War, until now. On this day, 69 years ago, an extraordinary act of chivalry took place above the skies of war torn Europe:
On December 20, 1943, the 379th Bomb Group (H) of the Eighth Bomber Command (U.S. Eighth Air Force) attacked Bremen, Germany. During that attack, Lt. Charles Brown from Weston, West Virginia, flying B-17F number 42-3167, witnessed an extraordinary act of chivalry by Franz Stiegler, the pilot of a Bf-109, who had taken off to attack him.  
As Brown guided his B-17, Ye Olde Pub, toward the target, an aircraft factory, it was buffeted by flak. "Suddenly," he later recounted, "the nose of the B-17 was mangled by flak. Then three of the four engines were damaged. The entire left stabilizer and left elevator were gone, ninety percent of the rudder was gone, and part of the top of the vertical stabilizer was gone. I quickly pulled out of formation so we wouldn't damage our other planes if we exploded... 
Brown's plane then plunged from 25,000 feet to 200 feet at which point he regained consciousness. Incredibly, Ye Olde Pub was flying straight and level directly over a German airfield. At that moment, Oberleutenant (1Lt) Franz Stiegler, who had been on the ground reloading his guns, spotted Brown's mortally wounded aircraft. He leaped into his Bf-109 and took off in pursuit. Eager to score a kill, Stiegler closed in from the rear to within ten feet of the B-17.  
As Stiegler described the encounter, "The B-17 was like a sieve. There was blood everywhere. I could see the crew trying to help their wounded. The tail gunner was slumped over his gun, his blood streaming down its barrel. Through the gaping hole in the fuselage, I could see crewmen working frantically to save a comrade whose leg was blown off. I thought to myself, 'How can I shoot something like that? It would be like shooting a man in a parachute.'... 
Stiegler then flew wingtip-to-wingtip with the crippled bomber, close enough for the two enemies to see each other clearly. The German pilot escorted the struggling B-17 to the North Sea. Then, to Brown's amazement, he saluted, put his plane into a crisp roll and flew away, allowing Brown to make it back to a British airfield.
ht Zero Hedge

Both Brown and Stiegler survived the war (Stiegler was one of only 1,200 out of 30,000 German pilots to do so). And even more remarkably, they met again...


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...